Saturday, Jul 23, 2016
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NJ tree that survived Sandy to dominate Rockefeller Center

MOUNT OLIVE, N.J. — The Christmas tree that will dominate New York's Rockefeller Center survived the winds of Superstorm Sandy that left a path of destruction in a New Jersey town and even its donor without electricity for weeks.

Joe Balku, 76, learned that the 80-foot Norway spruce had been chosen for the honor four weeks ago. Sandy hit two weeks later.

Balku watched the tree, which weighs 10 tons and is 50 feet in diameter, as it swayed in the backyard.

“I kept going outside during the night. I lost two trees, an oak and an evergreen, but the big tree was tied up for its protection,” Balku said.

His electricity went out, but on the morning after the storm, the tree was still standing and his home did not sustain any damage.

The tree was about 22-feet tall when Balku purchased the home in 1973.

Balku had two generators running to power his home in the rural community about an hour from Manhattan. He didn't have cable TV or Internet service.

Electricity was restored on Saturday.

The tree will be loaded on a 115-foot-long flatbed truck and erected at Rockefeller Center on Wednesday. Workers will then string 45,000 lights on the branches.

“It's a thrill of a lifetime to have the chance to donate the tree to Rockefeller Center and for millions of people to see it all over the world,” he said.

The 80th Christmas tree lighting will take place on Nov. 28.

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